How Stress Affects The Skin
Stress is something most of us are familiar with and according to certain studies, one third of Americans are living with extreme stress. To add to that, nearly half of Americans believe that their stress has increased over the past five years. Unfortunately, as well as the overwhelming feeling that comes with stress, it is shown to cause skin rashes, hair loss, soft nails, acne and more. Stress can affect almost every aspect of our life but today we’re focussing on the effect on our skin.
How Stress Affects Your Skin
When stressed, a chemical response is triggered in your body that can make the skin more sensitive and reactive. This can be at the heart of problems such as Acnewhere the culprit is usually excessively oily skin. This oily skin can be particularly bad when stressed as your body reacts and produces more cortisol. Cortisol tells your skin to make more oil, hence the acne outbreaks when stressed.
Stress and Inflammation
The key affect that stress has on the skin is through inflammation. It is widely understood that there is a deep and powerful connection between the mind, skin and gut. When stressed, digestion in the gut can slow downwhich in turn affects the vitally important bacteria that we need to keep things moving.
When our gut slows down, it allows time for unhealthy bacteria to grow and can create an imbalance in our natural gut microbes – this leads to an issue known as Dysbioisis. When this happens, your intestines can become what they call ‘leaky’ causing a complete cascade of inflammation throughout the body.
Due to this inflammation the skin may begin to break out in acne or psoriasis and eczema flare-ups.
The Mind-Skin Connection
As we begin to explore our mental health more frequently we begin to appreciate the effect our mind can have on the skin. As previously mentioned, stress directly increases cortisol, which in turn increases the amount of oil our skin produces. It can also affect our gut and this ultimately leads to inflammation of the body and skin.
In a new field that experts are calling “psychodermatology” the focus on mental health and the effect on our skin has never been greater. Karen Mallin, PsyD discussed this connectionat great length by highlighting the many different levels that our mind connects to our skin. First and foremost, many of our nerve endings are connected to the skin and they wrap around our organs. As emotions are played out neurologically they can be expressed through the skin just as stress can be expressed through gastrointestinal symptoms, increased anxiety or hypertension.
This connection can be seen clearly in autoimmune diseases such as Alopeciaand Vitiligowhere scientists now look for stressful events in the patients’ life that can or may have triggered the autoimmune reaction.
By aiming to treat these underlying psychological problems, which are understood to affect 30% of all dermatology patients, we could see better treatment for skin rash, disease and acne sufferers in the future.
In all, skin rashes, autoimmune diseases and beyond have a deep connection to our mental wellbeing. Here at First Derm, we have the AI technologyand dermatologiststo check on your skin rashes and give you advice on treatments. As reflected on in this article it may also be worth looking at potential stressors and triggers that could also be affecting your skin.
Specialist doctor from the University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, Alumni UC Berkeley. My PhD thesis is on Digital Health and I published 5 peer review scientific papers on teledermatology.